What are the Differences between a Conference vs. a Summit?
Both events have similar elements, such as networking, formal meetings, break-out panels, and presentations, but they also have different characteristics.
In recent years, hybrid conferences and summits have emerged as popular options for organizers who aim to leverage the best of both worlds – in-person and virtual.
Because conferences offer more networking opportunities, they have gained considerably more popularity than summits in recent years. Attendees often have a much more enjoyable and interactive experience at conferences.
Conferences and summits gather people with common agendas or interests.
According to a study by Statista, the number of corporate conferences and events in the United States increased from 1.78 million in 2016 to 1.93 million in 2019.
And Harvard Business Review revealed that 84% of executives believe attending conferences is vital to their company’s success. However, each type of event has a different purpose and structure, leading to unique outcomes.
What is the Purpose of Your Event?
A company or organization usually organizes conferences to discuss industry developments, share knowledge and best practices, and promote networking opportunities.
The agenda often includes prearranged sessions, breakout panels, and more. Conferences have more interactive experiences for attendees. For this reason, most organizations and companies choose to host conferences instead of summits.
A virtual summit is an online gathering of important people in a certain field. They share ideas, solve problems, and talk about research. Top executives, researchers, and other important people are invited.
During the summit, they watch presentations and can download resources like videos and documents. It’s a one-time event about a specific topic.
Summits offer excellent opportunities for list-building. The summit host has an opportunity to expand their reach and gain significant media exposure.
Additionally, speakers have an opportunity to build their lists as well. This unique marketing aspect makes hybrid summits popular with many organizations.
Whether attending a conference for product development or a leadership summit for global issues, it’s essential to understand the differences and goals of each occasion to determine which one aligns with your needs.
Here are some key differences between a conference vs. a summit.
What is Your Subject Matter?
A conference and a summit are similar, but some key differences exist. A conference is usually larger in size and scope.
It usually involves multiple speakers from different organizations, companies, or industries and keynote presentations. The agenda typically covers various topics and themes related to the industry or the field.
This can include technical presentations and how-to sessions. Topics lend themselves to exciting audience engagement opportunities.
At a summit, leaders of organizations or nations gather to discuss a specific issue. They are typically much more focused and targeted, as the agenda items have a more specific focus, and the discussions revolve around one or two particular issues.
This allows for more in-depth and collaborative conversations that can produce tangible results.
Who are Your Organizational Leaders?
Industry associations, universities, professional organizations, and other entities organize conferences. They are designed to unite a diverse range of people from various backgrounds and perspectives.
The goal is typically to discuss topics that affect all members of the organization, such as new developments in technology, best practices in management, or ways to optimize operations.
Conferences often encourage a very wide audience to attend, including the general public, and attendees have multiple opportunities to interact with speakers directly.
Summits are usually attended by industry leaders and high-level decision-makers, as well as a targeted audience, who have the power to impact the direction of the industry positively.
This experience brings together the most knowledgeable, influential, and experienced professionals in their field to discuss topics related to their industry. A summit aims to brainstorm ways to collaborate and push the industry forward.
However, summits often have limited interaction between speakers and the attendees, often relying on simulive presentations instead of engaging networking.
Because hybrid summits allow speakers to pre-record their presentations, organizations often attract higher-level speakers, celebrities, and industry leaders to the event.
Speakers do not need to attend the in person and can schedule their talk around their personal schedule. Prominent industry leaders also lead to more media exposure for the host and other speakers.
CASE STUDY: Virtual Summit on Building a United Racial Justice Movement from the US to Palestine
We & Goliath helped Eyewitness Palestine organize a virtual summit to fundraise and engage their community during the pandemic. We set up the virtual event platform and registration flow, researched and selected suitable software, and provided coaching for livestreaming. We also designed the event logo and website, including graphic elements.
Incredible Registration Success
The result was a successful event with 519 registrations and over $20,000 in revenue, achieved without paid marketing. These efforts helped sustain the nonprofit during a difficult time when in-person events were impossible during the pandemic.
Do You Want a Formal or Informal Event?
Conferences are usually semi-formal events. However, they tend to be slightly more relaxed than summits. They are gatherings of people from different organizations, industries, or academic backgrounds to discuss topics of mutual interest.
They typically have presentations from experts, panel discussions, and networking opportunities. Conferences can be held nationally or internationally and are generally larger events than summits.
The main difference between a conference and a summit is the formality. They are formal events where delegates dress formally and adhere to strict protocols.
Summits involve high-level business representatives and leaders. Speakers may discuss pressing issues or topics of interest. With hybrid summits, organizers may choose a grand venue for in-person attendees and require formal attire and strict protocols.
How Much Media Exposure Do You Want for Your Event?
Conferences may have some media exposure, but the media presence is not as significant as in summits. They are typically smaller gatherings, with fewer attendees and more limited scope.
They often involve experts, professionals, and other stakeholders in a particular industry or field coming together to discuss current issues and topics related to that field.
Summits have considerable media exposure. The press coverage can be global, and media houses may send teams of correspondents to cover the happening.
They are larger and more significant. Summits usually involve more participants, a more ambitious agenda, and greater media attention. Make an international impact.
Will the Event Include Networking Opportunities for Guests?
Conferences provide ample networking opportunities. Attendees exchange business cards and interact with fellow professionals. Individuals and organizations to share best practices, learn new strategies and get inspired.
Activities like virtual scavenger hunts, social media contests, or even mixology classes may be more informal. The point is to encourage camaraderie and relationships and build a network of like-minded individuals.
Summits also offer networking, but the interactions are often less interactive and presentation style. The occasions are usually attended by senior executives and industry leaders, academics, and other experts. The purpose is to:
Some hybrid summits attempt to create a more engaging atmosphere through immersive 3D environments, breakout sessions, and interactive Q&A polls. Attendees want to connect to the speakers. Giving them opportunities to do so can create an unforgettable experience.
Why Do People Want to Attend Your Event?
Conferences may not be considered exclusive or high-status events. They are organized around a theme, featuring speakers, panel discussions, workshops, networking opportunities, and more.
Virtual conferences provide convenience and flexibility, allowing people to attend from the comfort of their homes or office without needing to travel.
It’s not unusual to have attendees show up in casual attire, ready to engage, while multi-tasking, especially those attending for work purposes.
Conferences also offer the opportunity to access a wider range of speakers and sessions, often at a lower cost than in-person events.
Finally, virtual conferences provide a platform for networking and engaging with peers worldwide, creating new opportunities for collaboration and professional growth.
With summits, speakers are often top industry leaders and decision-makers. Most speakers attend to shore up their client lists. The summit provides a very unique and low-cost marketing opportunity to reach a global audience, especially for the host.
In fact, organizations might find it easier to book international speakers because of the summit format. Attendees hope to connect with top-level industry icons.
Speakers participate in a summit to build their audience and increase leads, while attendees interact with high-level leaders. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.
Do You Have a Significant Audience Engagement?
Conferences encourage discussion, where panelists share their opinions and experiences about the industry topics and answer questions from the audience.
Besides discussions, organizers offer a wide range of exciting and unconventional experiences, from virtual photo walls to hybrid escape rooms to meditation classes.
The more informal event plus the exciting range of engaging activities is one reason why most organizations today choose a conference over a summit.
Summits are more action-oriented and aim to find practical solutions to the issues discussed during the event.
They offer fewer audience engagement opportunities, though most event organizers today try to incorporate networking opportunities with industry leaders in breakout sessions and other interactive opportunities.
As you can see, hybrid conferences and summits have unique structures, styles, and themes.
Knowing the differences and similarities between the two types of events can help organizers, speakers, and attendees to make informed decisions about which to attend or organize based on their objectives and needs.
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Which is Better: A Conference vs. a Summit?
A hybrid conference typically brings together industry leaders to share insights and discuss topics relevant to their field. They usually have a prearranged agenda with organized break-out panels.
More formal events and networking opportunities like exchanging business cards with prospects or arranged meetings with buyers and sellers may be a part of the conference format.
Conferences are valuable opportunities for learning and education.
Attendees gain knowledge and learn about the latest trends and research in a particular field through workshops, lectures, and panel discussions.
By participating in these sessions, attendees improve their skills and gain new insights to apply to their work or personal life.
Conferences provide a platform to meet and network with like-minded individuals, potential collaborators, and industry experts.
Breakout sessions lead to new business relationships, partnerships, and opportunities. By connecting with others in their field, attendees expand their network and increase their chances of success.
On the other hand, a hybrid summit is a gathering of people who usually have considerable media exposure.
Speakers at summits are often industry leaders, celebrities, and even social media influencers, who come together to discuss specific topics such as product development, health and wellness, or implement solutions for an international problem.
Summits offer unique global reach and an opportunity for significant low-cost brand building.
One major advantage of hosting a virtual summit is the buzz it can generate for your brand and offerings.
Quickly and effectively make an impact by utilizing industry experts to spread the word through word of mouth. Marketing opportunities abound.
A virtual summit focusing on your brand and its problem-solving capabilities positions your organization as a market leader in your industry, all while staying within budget.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to establish yourself as a leading brand in your field. By organizing a virtual event, showcase your products and services to a wider audience, build important connections with industry experts, and attract potential clients.
Hybrid Summit Marketing 101: Tips and Tricks for Success
Are you planning to organize a summit? It’s important to carefully plan and execute the event to make it unforgettable. Start by selecting a topic that you’re passionate about and that will interest your audience.
Look for knowledgeable speakers who can provide valuable insights and information to your audience. Arrange for in-depth interviews with each speaker to showcase their expertise on the topic.
Then, ask each speaker to promote the event to their followers and subscribers. It’s common for up to half of the speakers to join you in promoting the summit.
To create anticipation and excitement leading up to the event, release the interviews one by one over a 10-day period.
Don’t be surprised you will experience a surge in traffic from your speakers’ fans and followers, who will become your new subscribers and customers.
Finally, share the revenue with your speakers by agreeing on an even split for each successful event. By following these steps, generate significant attention, build your subscriber list, and boost your revenue with a successful hybrid summit.
15 Impressive Benefits of a Hybrid Summit or Conference
The hybrid aspect of both conferences and summits allows for a virtual element.
This is beneficial as attendees can access the event anywhere worldwide, and organizers can save on logistical costs such as travel and lodging.
Other benefits include:
- Reach a larger audience beyond physical attendance
- Offer flexibility for attendees to participate in person or virtually
- Reduce travel costs and time for attendees and organizers
- Reduced carbon footprint with less travel and transportation
- Virtual attendance reduces paper waste and excess materials and promotes sustainability
- Opportunity for remote speakers and attendees to reduce environmental impact
- Allow for seamless remote presentations and guest speakers
- Provide digital resources and engagement tools
- Increase event accessibility for those with disabilities or health concerns
- Opportunities for post-event online community
- Save considerable costs on the venue, accommodations, catering, and travel
- Collect more data and insights on attendee behavior and preferences
- Expand sponsorship opportunities with virtual components
- Enable real-time interaction for both virtual and in-person attendees
- Provide a unique and innovative event experience
The Challenges of Hosting a Hybrid Conference or Summit
Hybrid events have become a popular choice for event organizers as they offer the best of both worlds- the flexibility and accessibility of virtual events and the personal touch and experience of in-person events.
However, it’s important to be aware of some common challenges of hosting a hybrid event:
Hybrid events can be difficult to manage because they have both virtual and in-person components.
Technical issues like bad video or audio quality, internet problems, and device compatibility can happen. To make sure everyone has a good time, it’s important to have a seasoned production team.
- Professional production team enhances event quality
- Expertise ensures seamless execution
- High-quality visuals improve engagement
- Clear audio quality avoids distractions
- Dynamic shots maintain attendee interest
- Creative stage design sets the tone
- Efficient camera work creates polished video
- Expert editing improves video quality
- Broaden audience reach through live streaming and engagement
- Saves time and reduces stress for event organizers
Additionally, some hybrid events don’t have as many chances to network as in-person events. But you can use breakout rooms, virtual chat rooms, and Q&A sessions to help people meet and talk.
Everyone should have the same experience, no matter if they’re in person or online.
How to Overcome Technical and Engagement Challenges?
Organizing a hybrid conference or summit can be daunting, especially with the many challenges involved. But with the right production team and planning, you can easily overcome technical and engagement challenges:
- Provide high-quality livestreaming and production services for a seamless online and in-person experience
- Engage online audiences with interactive features like chat, Q&A, polls, and surveys
- Use winning marketing expertise to promote the event and attract a wider audience
- Utilize the latest technology like cutting-edge event platforms, apps, augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360-degree video
- Offer technical support to ensure attendees have a smooth and uninterrupted experience
- Create and edit engaging video content to highlight the best moments
- Work closely with the event organizers to ensure that the event goals are met and exceeded
- Provide analytics and feedback to measure the success and identify areas for improvement
Teaming up with a professional event production team makes your conference or summit go by smoothly, creating an incredible experience for each guest.
How Long Do Virtual Summit Meetings and Online Conferences Last?
Virtual summit meetings and online conferences vary in length depending on their subject, scope, and structure.
Some may last only a few hours, while others span multiple days. However, they generally last one to three days.
The One-Day Conference
One-day virtual conferences are usually tightly organized, with a prearranged agenda packed with speakers and break-out panels covering different topics related to the conference’s theme.
These events usually involve highly-focused, in-depth discussions addressing current industry challenges, sharing insight-driven experiences, and increasing business opportunities.
The agenda scope and the quality of the speakers’ presentations can significantly impact the participants’ engagement and satisfaction levels.
Multi-Day Virtual Summits
On the other hand, multi-day virtual summits offer a more ambitious and action-oriented agenda subject, providing an excellent platform for industry leaders or organizational leaders to address critical issues in their field.
These occasions feature multiple interactive sessions, networking events, and breakout panels. They offer opportunities for business executives to connect with peers and share knowledge or insight while showcasing their products to a wider audience.
Regardless of the length, these opportunities offer considerable media exposure and provide an excellent platform for attendees to gather information, network, and make valuable contacts.
Planning Your Upcoming Hybrid Conference or Summit
If you want to host an impressive summit or conference, there are several important steps to follow.
Depending on the occasion’s scope, you may want to contact industry leaders, CEOs, local organizers, or even famous social media influencers. Also, interview your production team. They will be integral to your overall success.
Following these promotional tactics will reach a wider audience and increase event awareness among your event participants.
Develop a Strong Marketing Strategy with Your Team
Once you have your production team and speakers in place, it’s time to move on to the next important step: promotion.
Spread the word about your event and get your partners on board. Then launch, it’s finally time to kick off and get started!
Last but not least, you have the final step: follow-up. This is where you wrap up the promotion and make your final offers.
Each step should take about 30 days, which means you’ll need 90 days to prepare for the summit, 30 days to host it, and another 30 days for follow-up.
Many organizers forget the all-important period post-event. Take advantage of this prime to build your client list and community.
25 Tips to Get the Most Out of Business Summits and Conferences
Attending business summits and conferences can be a valuable opportunity to network and learn from industry and organizational leaders.
With the rise of virtual and hybrid, it’s easier than ever to participate from anywhere worldwide.
However, to make the most of these opportunities, preparation is key. Here are 25 tips to get the most out of hybrid summits and conferences in 2023:
- Research the agenda and scope beforehand
- Plan your schedule around sessions that align with your goals
- Take breaks throughout the day to recharge and avoid burnout
- Prepare questions ahead of time for Q&A sessions
- Follow social media accounts to stay updated on the news
- Utilize the networking features, such as virtual meetups and speed networking sessions
- Arrange virtual coffee or lunch meetings with other attendees
- Update your LinkedIn profile and exchange contact information with fellow attendees
- Be open to connecting with people outside your industry or expertise
- Dress professionally, even for live-stream
- Familiarize yourself with the virtual platform
- Test your internet connection and audio/video quality
- Create a comfortable and distraction-free environment to participate
- Bring a notebook or use note-taking apps to record insights and key takeaways
- Share your insights and experiences during discussions
- Attend break-out panels and smaller sessions for more personalized interaction
- Participate in virtual exhibitor booths to learn about new products and services
- Sign up for email lists for additional resources and follow-up opportunities
- Watch recordings of sessions that you may have missed
- Use gamification features to engage and win prizes
- Attend after-parties to network more casually
- Join discussion forums or social media groups related to the industry
- Follow up with contacts after with personalized messages
- Implement learnings and insights into your work and professional development
- Consider attending the same happening for continued growth and networking opportunities the following year
Make meaningful connections and insights during hybrid summits and conferences in 2023 and ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment in attending.
We & Goliath produces hybrid events that skillfully engage attendees online and in person. Our core hybrid production package:
Ensure online attendees feel as engaged as those in the room! Our hybrid event platform connects online and in-person attendees via a shared mobile & web app with powerful features and customization.
At We & Goliath, hybrid isn’t a new fad. We’ve been at this since our beginning.
We strive to partner with you, crafting the perfect custom solution for your needs. We believe planning is everything because live productions don’t allow you to ‘fix-it-in-post.’
We provide insights and coordination during all phases of a project.
Our on-site video teams readily integrate with more traditional audiovisual resources to create customized ‘plug and play’ solutions that scale to the needs of any live, virtual, or hybrid event production.